Discord in St Albans district council over allowance increase

St Albans district council. Photo: KRISHAN BHUNGAR.

St Albans district council. Photo: KRISHAN BHUNGAR. - Credit: Archant

There was acrimonious disagreement between St Albans councillors last week over an increase in their allowance.

Last week, The Herts Advertiser reported on the council’s independent remunerations panel recommending a two per cent increase in the allowance given to each councillor.

The increase was debated by the district council on Wednesday, December 5, with council leader Alec Campbell recommending a freeze in the allowance, rather than a rise.

“We do have an independent remuneration panel and I thank them for the diligent work they have done in putting the report together,” he said.

“Having considered the basic allowance in our Conservative group, we have decided that we want to recommend that we stay unchanged.”

At the same meeting on Wednesday, councillors also passed a 2.3 per cent average increase in council tax.

Harpenden West councillor Daniel Chichester-Miles said: “I don’t feel I should be paid more at the expense of 144,000 people having their council tax go up.”

Cllr Campbell’s recommendation was met with opposition from opposition Labour and Liberal Democrat councillors.

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Batchwood councillor Malachy Pakenham said: “You do not need to accept the allowance.

“How many of that lot [the Conservatives] handed their allowance back?

Every year we go back to this: the Bertie Woosters [in the Conservative group] who do not need the money, taking it away from councillors who need it.

“It’s an exercise in public farce.”

He said the allowance worked out to around £15 a day, before councillors pay tax on it.

London Colney councillor Katherine Gardner said: “Year-on-year we seem to ignore these independent recommendations.

“It’s very easy to think about council allowance as payment, but this is, for me, about the impact it’s had on my ability to earn a living.

“I decided to enter local politics to give something back to the community as, probably, we all did.

“But that has an impact on your career and it means I may not have been promoted as often as I might have been.

“It’s a principle for me that if you are saying we are not going to make up for the impact on your career, we are excluding people who might need that money.

“It might mean the difference between standing and not standing for council.”